Categories > Original > Sci-Fi1 Reviews
A man enters a virtual world in search of his brother. Will he be able to save him? Or himself?
He turned quickly at the sound. His whip lashed out and hit the vampire bat. The bat's form blinked twice, flickered and transformed into a diamond, dropping to the ground.
Carson rewound the whip and picked up the diamond. The gem was flawless and crystal clear, though artificially cut. He recognized it as a Perfect Diamond, perfect for a quick heal if he needed it. He placed it inside his Inventory.
The bats were no longer a problem. He could dispose of them now with one hit. The golems and bosses would still be a problem, but he would deal with them when he needed to. Carson surveyed his surroundings. It was the twelfth floor of the tower, if he remembered correctly. On the wall to his left, he saw the ever-present grandfather clock that marked the time within the game world. He had been immersed in this virtual reality game for five hours now. There was only an hour left before his brain started to accept the virtual as real and he would be trapped within... as his brother had.
Kelly programmed this game, Carson reminded himself. It had been Kelly's dream to create this fully-immersive world based on his favorite horror stories. Kelly had asked him to try it out with him--test out and play the game as a team--but Carson had refused. And now, Kelly was inside this place somewhere.
This was Carson's third attempt to find his brother. In the real world, both his and Kelly's bodies were immersed in liquid inside virtual reality tubes of Kelly's own design. The technology was highly experimental and, it turned out, dangerous. Kelly had been so immersed by the experience that he forgot the time limit and was now trapped within the game world. Forcing him out would cause a shock to his consciousness; he needed to be found within the game and woken up with a predetermined keyword. The problem of finding Kelly was confounded by the fact that the game's logic transformed the floor layouts every time he logged in. So he had to start from scratch each time.
Finding Kelly was one thing. Carson remembered his other problem: finding out what the keyword is.
Carson looked at the grandfather clock again. It was the only constant within the changing floors. He saw that only a few minutes had passed, but he should log off soon. He shook his head at the clock's archaic design. Kelly had been a stickler for details and modeled the ingame features as close to the antique items as he could. No one even owned a clock that wasn't digital and Kelly had to look for old paper textbooks to find pictures for reference.
Carson wondered how long it would take to find his brother. Did he have to reach the final floor? How tall was the tower? Did Kelly ever finish programming the game? Did Kelly ever mention the keyword?
Carson shook his head. He didn't know anything. He should have listened to his brother. Maybe if he had joined him in the experiment, he could have kept this from happening. Maybe...
Carson leaned on the grandfather clock. He didn't need to rest, but he wanted to listen to the clock's tick-tock as he thought and planned his next moves. Halfway through deciding to log off, he noticed something strange: a light was seeping out of the clock's base.
Curious, Carson pushed at the clock's side. The clock slid across the floor, revealing a narrow hallway behind it. One of the hallway's walls was lined with small torches; their flickering light casted eerily dancing shapes on the opposite wall. A secret passage! Where could this lead, Carson wondered. He decided to follow the hallway, taking one of the small torches with him for light.
As he walked along the hall, he encountered small groups of rats which attacked at intervals. Carson took care of them easily, keeping his progress along the hallway steady and fast. The narrow hallway eventually ended into a large room. Four statues adorned the four corners of the room, each a representation of Kelly's four favorite monsters: a vampire, a werewolf, a mummy, and a zombie. In the middle of the room was a simple wooden coffin. Carson walked along the perimeter of the room, past each of the statues, and admired each in turn. He finally approached the coffin and set his torch down beside it. It was a plain one, unadorned and nothing spectacular. "I should check what's inside," Carson reasoned. "It's probably game logic." He lifted the lid and was both shocked and ecstatic to see who was inside the coffin.
His brother laid inside the coffin, unmoving. Kelly was dressed in an archaic medieval nobleman costume with a blindfold over his eyes. A blindfold? Was it the game's way of saying that his brother was no longer seeing reality?
He accessed his Inventory and brought out the Perfect Diamond he found earlier. He placed it on his brother's forehead. In the game, this process had cured him of any wounds and restored health. Could it help his brother?
No reaction from Kelly. Carson cursed and placed the diamond back into his Inventory.
A flapping sound alerted him, but he was too late to attack. A bat had attached himself to his arm and he shouted out in surprise. The bat fought to keep its grip, but Carson finally managed to grab it and toss it to the floor. The bat's form fizzled and was replaced by a man dressed in the same medieval garb as Kelly. He wore Kelly's face as well, which Carson found disconcerting. The man with Kelly's face grinned and showed off a set of wicked-looking teeth and sharp fangs.
"Ah, you have found my treasure, oui?" the vampire asked. A French-speaking metrosexual vampire with Kelly's face, Carson mused. What was his brother thinking when he programmed this? He stood at the ready with his whip already in hand.
The vampire held both hands up, "Calm yourself. I do not wish to fight. Your current level is so pitiful that it is beneath me. I shan't sully my best regalia to engage you in a fight."
Carson raised an eyebrow, but did not relax.
The vampire floated a few feet above the ground while speaking. "I do bring you a message from the Creator, a riddle for that which you seek: 'Spent away, I never to return. Flowing like a river, I am never dammed nor caught, but always measured. I wait for no man.'"
A riddle! Was it for the keyword? Carson repeated it mentally to himself to remember and blurted, "What does it mean?"
Instead of answering, the vampire laughed and gestured as if dispersing a stray fly from his clothes. "That is for you to think about. I bid you adieu!" He floated higher and towards the vampire statue on one of the corners. The vampire phased through the wall and out of sight.
Shaken by the experience, Carson grabbed his arm and was surprised by what he felt. He brought up his hands to confirm it and saw that it was indeed blood.
He had stayed too long inside the game! Getting attacked in the game didn't normally leave any marks or wounds, but his mind was starting to accept the reality and it was adding more realistic touches to make the scenario fit. The blood was only the first step.
Was that the keyword?
"Blood!" he shouted at his brother. No reaction.
"Awake!" Still no reaction.
"Vampire, werewolf, zombie, mummy..." Carson tried word after word--every word he could think of that related to his brother or the game--hoping desperately for a reaction. He was feeling himself sweat now, another bad sign. He needed to find the word fast or he might not be able to find his brother on his next attempt. The changing floors may mean that the hallway would not exist when he returned, even if the grandfather clocks would still exist in every floor. There was little time left!
Wait... That may be it!
Never returning, flowing like a river, never caught but always measured and waits for no man. It could be--
"Time!" he shouted and the blindfold over his brother's eyes disappeared.
"Yes!" he shouted and logged the two of them off the game.
Carson opened his eyes and saw the inside of the virtual reality tube. He pushed the cover off the tube and climbed out. Without wasting any more time, he ran towards the other tube and helped his brother out. Kelly tried to stand, but weakly fell on his behind; the lack of exercise had rendered his legs useless for the time being. Carson brought his arm around his shoulders and supported him to his bedroom.
"How long was I out?" Kelly whispered.
"Four days," Carson replied. He laid his brother on the bed and sat down near him, arranging the pillows to make him more comfortable.
"God!" Kelly said weakly.
"Yeah..." Carson stood up. "Look, take a rest. I'll keep an eye on you."
"Thank you," his brother replied, drifting off to sleep. "For everything, Carson."
"Just rest," Carson said, heading out of the door. He turned for one last look of his brother. As he closed the door behind him, he heard his brother whisper, "bonsoir."
His blood ran cold. He realized that he was holding something all of this time inside his clenched fist. He opened his fist and saw the item in his palm.
It was a Perfect Diamond.